A new smartphone app that helps young people to recall positive memories has been found to reduce the severity of depression, according to a study funded by Australian Rotary Health (ARH).
ARH Mental Health Research Grant recipient Dr David Hallford from Deakin University lead a trial of a mobile-friendly adjunct memory specificity training program (c-MeST), aimed at enhancing the treatment of depression.
Participants (aged 15-25) who were already receiving some sort of treatment for an episode of major depressive disorder (e.g., psychotherapy or medication) were recruited to the study, with some receiving the online program in addition to their treatment and some receiving treatment as usual.
Dr Hallford said participants who received c-MeST were better at recalling specific memories and reported a lower severity of depressive symptoms than those who did not have access to the program.
“For the first time we can show that helping young people who are experiencing an episode of major depression to recall specific memories of positive events from their lives can help to reduce the severity of their depressive symptoms,” Dr Hallford said.
The study also found that more than half of adolescents and young adults in the study found the app easy to use, helpful, and would recommend it to other people who were depressed.
“These findings provide more evidence that we can provide simple and easy to access interventions that help reduce the severity of depression in young people.”
Dr Hallford noted that while the intervention helped to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms, it did not substantially reduce the number of people who would still be diagnosed with major depression by the end of the study.
“These findings encourage us to think in terms of what additional support we can provide to young people with depression, even when they are already receiving treatments,” he said.
One journal article has been published from this study, with other planned peer-reviewed publications expected later this year.
Dr David Hallford will join us soon on The Research Behind Lift the Lid podcast, stay tuned!
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